sunday circular

10 Products That Delighted Us Last Week: From Coloring Books to Compact Dryers

Photo: Courtesy of the retailers

We write about hundreds of products a week. Here, in our version of the Sunday circular, we’ve plucked out some of our favorites — expert-recommended essentials, life-changing stuff you didn’t know you needed, newly launched gizmos, and the very good deals we uncovered while trolling through the vast online-shopping universe this past week.

An ointment to help soothe irritation caused by face masks

Last week, a New York City doctor asked us to help “me and all the other health-care workers wearing an N95 mask and a plastic face shield figure out a skin-care routine that could make this less uncomfortable.” We, of course, sprung to action, putting together a full routine of calming and soothing products. Those who do not have time for a full routine, however, might find some relief simply from this ointment, which dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo recommends applying all over your face right before you put on the mask (a thin layer is more than enough). It will create a protective veil between the skin and fabric of the face mask, she told us.

The coloring book that’s keeping actress Angela Kinsey busy

“Since I’m basically homeschooling right now, we’re doing art in the morning, so we’ve been coloring more than we have in a long time,” the Office star told us when we talked to her about the things she can’t live without. “I sit with them and color in the Enchanted Forest book. All of the pages have these really cool, sci-fi, magical-looking places. Right now, I’m coloring a castle that’s floating in a sea of leaves in the sky.”

A thoughtful birthday gift for these times (as well as better days)

The right birthday gift is hard enough to find when there isn’t a global health-care crisis demanding you stay inside every day. Replying to a reader who asked for thoughtful birthday-gift ideas that feel appropriate for the present moment, one of our 26 ideas was this luxurious set of cashmere sweats (that aren’t too expensive for cashmere). Certainly appropriate for working or lounging at home, they’re also the type of gussied-up basic you could wear to brunch — whenever that time comes. (The joggers, we should note, are available in limited sizes at Naadam, but the brand makes a similar pair of cashmere joggers exclusively for QVC that you can buy in many sizes here; and for more Strategist-approved cashmere pants, click here.)

A Will Shortz–approved crossword-puzzle book

According to the legendary New York Times crossword-puzzle editor, “we’re living in the golden age of crosswords — they’ve never been as interesting or as well made as they are now.” If you’ve finished all the puzzles in that stack of old New York and People magazines you’ve kept for a rainy day (you know the stack), Shortz and several other crossword obsessives recently recommended their favorite crossword-puzzle books for passing the time. While many of them suggested collections of Shortz’s own puzzles, the man himself suggested this “addictive and really well-made” book: “What I like to do most are cryptic crossword puzzles in the British style, but by American puzzle-makers — there are some really nice ones that have appeared in the Nation magazine for years and years.”

An expert-recommended way to boost Wi-Fi

Those working from home, writes contributor Tobey Grumet Segal, “probably know that getting a wireless signal from your router to the spot you happen to be in isn’t always so easy.” If you keep getting bumped from Zoom calls, experts told Segal to consider installing a mesh network, which “leapfrogs your Wi-Fi signal to hard-to-reach nooks and crannies using small nodes strategically placed around your home.” Like a lot of new technology, the systems experts recommend aren’t cheap, but this one from Eero is a budget-friendly option that will get the job done (it’s $100 cheaper than the next expensive model on our list). Of the Eero, Segal writes: “Our colleagues at the Verge describe it as ‘not the fastest mesh system, but one of the easiest to use,’ and Damien Corr, digital product manager and IT consultant at Systems Evolution Inc., says, ‘The price is right, and it’s not unduly clunky.’”

A STEM toy that encourages playing with food

In talking to educators and neuropsychologists about toys that put the fun in fundamental education, math teacher Karen Blumberg pointed us to the Makey Makey, a coding kit for ages 8 and up that turns everyday objects like bananas or avocados into touch pads. “Instead of playing a video game using your computer keyboard, with the Makey Makey, anything that’s conductive can act as your input, a.k.a. your controller,” Blumberg says, noting that the first thing people always do with the Makey Makey is build a banana keyboard.

A bar cart for those “essential” bottles (that’s a favorite of interior designers)


Whether you’re stocking up for a virtual happy hour or a tipple to take the edge off after a long day, many folks say booze is essential (or, at least, an essential business) during the pandemic. If the bottles you’re buying are starting to make your home look like a frat house, an easy — and productive — pursuit could be to arrange them, and all your other home-bar gear, on a bar cart, like this sleek (and now even less expensive) style from a recent home-décor-themed micro sale, which interior designer Alessandra Wood says will “add a touch of glimmer” to any room.

The gadget one editor uses to channel the comforts of home in his apartment

SEGA Genesis Mini

“With the press of a button,” senior editor Anthony Rotunno writes that his Sega Genesis Mini “will instantly transport me to my childhood living room, and I can spend hours not obsessing over the rising death toll or if I’ll have any money left in my retirement savings by the end of this pandemic.” The cartridgeless system, he explains, “comes with two controllers, an array of 40 built-in games, from Sonic the Hedgehog, to ToeJam & Earl, to Altered Beast, and the cords needed to hook it up to most TVs.”

A shorter version of do-it-all Dickies

To a reader “looking for lounging shorts but also ones I can (hopefully) wear outside the house soon,” Chris Black recently shared five of his favorite pairs, from mesh Champions (“the OG loungewear choice”) to trendier Stone Island shorts for “stunting” in your next WFH Fit post. Somewhere in between are “these classic, durable Dickies shorts in an excellent olive green,” which Black says “would work as well indoors as they would in the yard, garage, or skate park.”

And a compact clothes dryer that actually works

If, like New York features editor Marisa Carroll, you’re “comfortable washing clothes in the tub but have neither the indoor laundry space nor the Mamma Mia! line-drying setup to let them dry for hours on end,” then listen up. “The Panda,” she writes, is an “‘ultrafast portable spin-dryer’ the size of a garbage can that fits one load of wet laundry and plugs right into the wall. It’s essentially a giant salad spinner: It whirls your clothes around for five minutes and barfs the water out through a spigot.” And it works: Carroll says the machine “managed to get thin items (T-shirts, shorts, leggings) very dry and thicker ones (towels, denim, sweatshirts) pretty dry.” Not to mention, “watching it work was like a magic show … for extremely bored people … trapped in their homes during a pandemic.”

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

10 Products That Delighted Us Last Week on the Strategist